Though we don’t want to take anything away from the proud administrators and talented students who showcased their new school on Thursday, The Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy’s grand opening ceremony bore an odd resemblance to President Bush’s now infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech.
One could not help thinking that though the ceremony looked great for the cameras, the “soldiers” in attendance should have been spending their time dealing with an ongoing crisis rather than prematurely patting themselves on the back.
When Board President Chris Welch asked the crowd to repeat after him that “we did it,” many followed his command. The crowd, however, probably should have replied “we did what?”
If they had, here are some of the answers they might have gotten:
They did deplete a $40 million bond by hiring several unneeded layers of management, many of whom are connected to a certain disbarred attorney, to participate in the construction process.
They did pass on much less expensive sites for the school when Welch, who campaigned as a staunch opponent of a magnet school for Proviso, changed his tune after being elected and stood behind the current site.
They did move administrators out of those other two schools District 209 is supposed to operate and into huge, exquisite offices featuring panoramic views of the western suburbs. We’ve heard that the CEO’s office even features its own shower.
They did manage to throw away even more money at the ceremony itself, employing Paul Davis of Danielle Ashley Communications as Master of Ceremonies. Any of the administrators or officials present would have been a far more sensible choice, as Davis could not even pronounce the names of the Proviso area mayors present.
In the past, Danielle Ashley employees have been paid about $150 per hour for services such as sitting in on conference calls. We can only imagine what Davis’ check will look like this time around.
Despite all this, they also most likely did provide an opportunity for less than 150 students to enjoy educational opportunities far superior to those available at Proviso East and West, which consistently rank among the state’s most dismal schools in terms of academic performance.
Unfortunately, they also placed themselves in a position where they’ll almost certainly have to ask a frustrated and weary tax base for a referendum in order to keep the school open.
We’re not saying that the mission can’t be accomplished. The school’s co-principals, Richard Bryant and Melvin Berry, seem passionate and dedicated to building a superior institution at 8601 Roosevelt, and might just have it in them to overcome the political games and excessive spending that threaten their mission.
We’re just saying that it certainly has not been accomplished yet. When it has, we look forward to leaving that ceremony without such a bitter taste in our mouths.